Weekly Reading Report

It's late, I know. I spent the weekend in Adelaide, teaching workshops at the SA Writers' Centre, and I had a great turnout and met some really lovely people. But It's taken me till now to recover sufficiently to let you know about the current books in my life.



I have been reading and loving Hazel Holt's exquisite A Lot to Ask: The Life of Barbara Pym. It does have the world's daggiest cover, and people looked at me oddly when I was reading it at the airport, but what a charming, fascinating and at times very funny book. A must-read for all Barbara Pym fans. Holt is fascinating because she was actually a part of Pym's life - they worked together for twenty years.



I bought three books while I was in Adelaide, because I felt my luggage needed some weighing down. The one I picked up immediately and started reading was Doreen Virtue's latest book, The Courage to be Creative. I started reading it instantly, and was utterly charmed by it. I took it in to my first workshop and told the students about it, and many of them were keen to read it, too. One of them went straight out and bought it! People in the writing world probably don't know Doreen, but she is a megastar in the world of the New Age, one of the people who made Angels really big in the 90s with her beautiful cards. This new book is part memoir, and talks a lot about how creative people are normally misfits. I was identifying like crazy. But really, it's well worth reading.



They also had a nice stand of Vintage Classics, and I can't resist those handsome red spines, so I picked up Graham Greene's Reflections, because as you know I love Greene, and I don't have this.





I also grabbed Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception, because Hazel Holt writes a lot about Barbara Pym's love of Huxley's books (he inspired her to write) and I have never read a single one.



And the book I have been diving into and been reading exciting snatches of this past week is I Am She: Her Story by Ann Elizabeth Castle. I have worked with Ann in the past, and earlier this year she came to a talk I gave on Bhutan, which is when I got a copy of the book. It is a beautifully illustrated and constantly illuminating exploration of the feminine sacred, and I would love her to keep on producing other books in this style. Wide-ranging, esoteric and utterly absorbing.

Weekly Reading Report





I am giving a talk on my beloved Noel Coward on Saturday June 18, so I am totally absorbed in The Autobiography of Noel Coward. This is a collection of Coward's two published autobiographies, Present Indicative and Future Indefinite, along with the ten extant pages of his unfinished work of memoir, Past Conditional. It is, of course, all you would expect from Coward - funny, camp and sophisticated, and strangely honest (despite his avoidance of the constant question of his sexuality). I look forward to returning to the book each day.




While randomly picking up books at home doing my research for Coward, I found myself immersed in Tennessee Williams: An Intimate Biography by his brother Dakin Williams. I am always interested in anything to do with Williams, and now I keep picking this book up, "just to read a couple of pages." It helped me find out that Noel Coward starred in the film of one of Williams' plays, in a part originally written for a woman. Seems perfect.




The book in my bag is a new self-help title from the revered Louise Hay. Life Loves You is an absolute delight, though it's a bit cheeky as a publishing project - it is basically an account of chats between Hay and the book's real author, Robert Holden. That said, it's terrific fun, and I have found it incredibly inspiring and helpful. I recommend you grab a copy and, like me, keep it in your bag. It's the perfect pick-me-up when you are waiting for a train. 



The final book I have been dipping into this week is Richard Ellmann's Oscar Wilde. this is, of course, one of my favourite books, and it had an enormous influence on me in my youth. I have promised to re-read it this year, but every time I pick it up it seems so enormous that i find it difficult to commit myself. Even still, every time I read a couple of pages I am reminded of some fascinating fact I have forgotten, or some unexpected 19th century connection I had never really made before. It really is a superb book.

 

Writing Your Prayers





Sit quietly for a minute and think of a person or situation your think might need your prayers and your spiritual support.

Perhaps you have a few, your head is filled with people - it doesn't matter, just write them down as they come to you.

Now, write down what you would normally think or say if you were praying or sending them good wishes.

Write your hopes for them down simply and honestly – no-one is marking or checking it.

Put down on paper the prayer you might otherwise be carrying in your head.

I write these down as they come to me – I start a fresh page in my journal and record one or two lines, whatever I feel is needed. And each morning and evening I go to these pages and send my love to these people and wish them the best. It is a simple, private, routine.

But it is profound – and I know it makes a difference.

Start keeping a spiritual diary and use it to get systematic about your spiritual study.

I know you are all behind in your spiritual reading. I certainly am - it's going to take me a couple of hundred years to catch up on it all.

This year I hope you set yourself some ambitious goals around reading – and your spiritual journal is where you can record this. By writing these goals down you are recording and creating a self-guided course in spiritual development.

Keep a list of books you want to read on your spiritual journey, and keep a list of those you have read. Do always remember to date them.

This seemingly mundane ritual is one that can have an enormous impact, and it is a great gift to yourself later on. You can reflect on how you grew through reading.

And it goes without saying that you should keep notes as you read, jotting down meaningful passages in your journal.

Weekly Reading Report

In an effort to force me to write on my blog and to bring some freshness to it, I have decided to offer up, each Sunday, a weekly reading report, letting you all know what I am reading and why.

So, here's what's been keeping me from reaching my physical fitness goals over the past seven days:



I've been reading Charles Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood very slowly and carefully because on Saturday June 11 I am giving a talk about it at the NSW Dickens Society. This has been backed up by trips to the NSW State Library to read the commentary and criticism around the book (there's a lot!) and it really has been the most fascinating exercise. I have decided I am going to do this every year - read and study one of Dickens' novels closely and give a talk about it. The Mystery of Edwin Drood happens to be the NSW Dickens' Society's Book of the Year, so a few dozen people at least have been reading it in Sydney. Absolutely fascinating, especially because it is unfinished - poor old Dickens died while writing it.





I have also been reading the Walter Shewring translation of The Odyssey because I am doing an 8-week course on it at the Sydney WEA. It is quite a fascinating exercise, and I am enjoying it, though the reading can be rather slow at times. One thing is certain - once you start reading The Odyssey you realise just how much of our culture is linked to it. Names, stories, ideas - they keep popping up in my life again and again.




I have been keeping myself inspired with Alana Fairchild's 55 Keys, a beautiful book meant for small nibbles. Alana is a friend of mine, and I admire her work very much. This little hardcover is filled with inspiring stories and ideas, and keeps me focused on the good things in life. I think I will just keep reading it all year, constantly turning it back to the beginning.





And finally, I have been sent to review one of the most massive books I have seen in ages. It is The Miracle Power of Your Mind: The Joseph Murphy Treasury and it is big - really big! Break-your-foot big, hard-to-hold-up-in-bed big. And utterly fabulous - I love that Tarcher Penguin have done this, collecting together the greatest works of one of the greatest New Thought writers. I have read and re-read Murphy's The Power of Your Subconscious Mind over the years (it was a great favourite among the staff at the old Adyar Bookshop), so I look forward to reading his books together and in context. I may need to tape up my forearms though.
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